Grant-making needs to take a lead from other sectors and start seeing data as a valuable resource, research by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) has found.
NPC’s recent report ‘Valuing data: how to use it in your grant-making’ highlights how data is a beneficial resource within the sector and how it should carry more weight to deliver impact.
Currently only a minority of charitable foundations use data in this way, with many feeling ill-equipped to take advantage of the benefits. The research argues that a major shift in thinking is required before the sector values data an asset like money. The report also argues that leadership is vital to overcome these issues.
The key finding from the report is that better use of data will enable funders to improve their practice by identifying and highlighting individual needs, reducing application process inefficiencies, stronger testing perceptions, leading to an informing strategy, as well as fully understanding their impact.
The report concludes that while there is much that individual grant-makers can do to make the most of the data available, a sector-wide approach will ensure that grant-makers deliver the best possible impact.
Ruth Gripper, one of the co-authors of the report, says:
‘There are steps that every grant-maker can take individually to improve their use of data, such as using it to identify funding hot spots or to quickly identify and respond to emerging trends. However, there is a lot to be gained by funders looking at this issue collectively. A sector approach – led by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) – could help to address the challenge of capacity and help ensure that funders become better at what they do, thus delivering increased impact for beneficiaries’
ACF chief executive Carol Mack added:
‘This welcome report outlines in simple, actionable language how funders can make more use of the data that they hold. Without ignoring the costs and challenges, it highlights the powerful opportunities that seeing data as an asset could offer both funders and the causes and organizations they support.’
The report comes after sector leaders have expressed concern that data could be used more widely. Professor Cathy Pharoah, co-director of the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy at Cass Business School, recently commented in Alliance:
‘The challenges facing open data should not be underestimated. Though access to shared information is the bedrock of openness, we still have a long way to go. Many UK funders provide no more than the absolute minimum of information required by the UK regulator, the Charity Commission.’
Read our interview with outgoing ACF chief executive David Emerson, here.